Adam Zbegner is a father, husband, and intellectual in recovery. We became friends over twenty years ago from our involvement in a recovery community. We have spent many hours chatting, reviewing books, music, and playing Risk (The Game of Global Domination). Today we meet to discuss a book we decided to read and review this winter titled "The Case Against Reality" How Evolution hid the truth from our eyes by Donald D. Hoffman. See Links Below.
BOOK ON AMAZON:
Can we trust our senses to tell us the truth?
Challenging leading scientific theories that claim that our senses report back objective reality, cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman argues that while we should take our perceptions seriously, we should not take them literally. How can it be possible that the world we see is not objective reality? And how can our senses be useful if they are not communicating the truth? Hoffman grapples with these questions and more over the course of this eye-opening work.
Ever since Homo sapiens walked the earth, natural selection has favored perception that hides the truth and guides us toward useful action, shaping our senses to keep us alive and reproducing. We observe a speeding car and do not walk in front of it; we see mold growing on bread and do not eat it. These impressions, though, are not objective reality. Just like a file icon on a desktop screen is a useful symbol rather than a genuine representation of what a computer file looks like, the objects we see every day are merely icons, allowing us to navigate the world safely and with ease.
The real-world implications for this discovery are huge. From examining why fashion designers create clothes that give the illusion of a more “attractive” body shape to studying how companies use color to elicit specific emotions in consumers, and even dismantling the very notion that spacetime is objective reality, The Case Against Reality dares us to question everything we thought we knew about the world we see.
DONALD D. HOFFMAN :
This is Part one of a book review that progresses into many more topics, and eventually we land on the lap of Immanuel Kant.
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Joe Van Wie 0:01
Hello, and thanks again for listening to another episode of Better.
Jon Edwards 0:08
Greetings, dear listeners, this is Jonathan Edwards, your friendly local editor here. And listen, before we begin, I have a confession to make. This episode is so jam packed with information, I've decided to break it up into two parts. And hopefully Joe doesn't hate me for this, but it is extraordinarily long. So sit back, relax and enjoy the first half of this episode. And don't worry, Joe. We'll be back next week with Adam for part two. Anyway, back to the show.
Joe Van Wie 0:43
I'm your host, Joe van wie Today's guest is my friend, Adam Submariner. And I'm met in recovery. He suffers from the same disorder, I do have substance use disorder. But we also have a distinction when joining 12 Step groups, that we both come from an area of non belief, or atheism, and what that hurdle could present to a person wanting to connect through the practice experience of the 12 steps when exploring and defining the idea of a higher power. The plan today was to meet and discuss a book I thought would be curious for both of us to read on the context of reality, and how it's understood by humans, through our senses, and the book is called The case against reality. Our evolution hid the truth from our eyes by Donald D. Hoffman. We start the discussion, talking about the book, and Adams criticisms of it. And from there, we start to explore some other ideas that sprang from our discussion in evolution, what drives natural selection, what drives complexity, and in that complexity, of evolution, consciousness rises. Specifically the consciousness that humans can experience, the awareness of thought, and what that means when you're trying to overcome trauma, and addiction. From there, we talk about atheism and recovery. And the idea of subject and object we really nerd out. So this is a disclaimer for anyone who was looking for a simple chat. There's nothing really cliche here, we get into a deep discussion of the idea of comp has with subject and object evolution. And the idea that brought us to my podcast, just to lay people having a chat about why we would care about this and the effect it has on one sense of self or illusion. So we had fun. I hope you enjoy.
We're here with my friend, Adam. Bednar. Adam and I have been friends for close to 20 years, I would say now 2020 will have its 20 year anniversary. Yes. And I've been trying to get Adam to come on the show. To discuss and maybe reveal book that I read. That is fun for me and painful for Adam. But we're gonna talk about it nonetheless. I'm first off, Adam, thanks for coming up.
Adam Zbegner 4:03
Thanks for having me.
Joe Van Wie 4:04
And I want to summarize our relationship was built in recovery as two young guys was a little older than Adam but we spent a lot of nights hanging, listening to Bowie. Me intruding into his apartment to stay up late. And
Adam Zbegner 4:19
yeah, you just show up unannounced during the morning.
Joe Van Wie 4:23
That's because we're in a fellowship that allows that. Yeah. But I've always been grateful for that. In a sense, man, I was lonely back then. I never noticed if you were lonely I just You seemed pretty content with whoever was in your company.
Adam Zbegner 4:44
I don't get lonely very often. I like alone time I don't get very much of it anymore. Because I have two kids and a wife but I'm pretty good at like keeping myself have entertained. A lot of my interests are private and things I do alone. And are building models. Reading, sometimes writing, playing music.
Joe Van Wie 5:13
Yeah, that's always been the case since I've known you models, though. I remember when you began building models, what what was it about models.
Adam Zbegner 5:23
While they're tiny mouths, they're not like the kind of glue together in your paint. There are these little metal models, they're very tiny pieces that you cut out. And you use little tools to put them together. There's no screws, you use these little tabs, you have to pin them. I like them because they're hot. Very challenging. And you get that hit of dopamine when you finish it. Yeah, cuz, you know, and it looks good. Sometimes. You screw it up, and you gotta you can't really finish it because you break a piece. Because they're so tiny. They're like little it's laser cut sheet metal.
Joe Van Wie 6:00
Where did you find this? Well, you didn't start with this intricacy. Did you
Adam Zbegner 6:04
know I used to build the regular plastic models that you glue. I mean, I think I did that in my teenage years. He these metal models. I started maybe seven years ago, I received one as gifts for Christmas. And I loved it. So I've probably put together 100 Yeah, at this point,
Joe Van Wie 6:33
I've seen pictures from the house. How long does it take to complete one?
Adam Zbegner 6:38
So they vary. The easiest ones? Maybe take two hours for me because I've done it for a while. The hardest ones take 20 hours.
Joe Van Wie 6:48
Wow. And what's what's like, how elaborate are the structures? What are they recognizable? Yeah.
Adam Zbegner 6:58
The most difficult one I've ever done is the International Space Station. That probably took 30 hours. It's only six inches long. But there's like 1000 pieces. And they're almost microscopic. Some of them you know, you can't pick them up.
Joe Van Wie 7:20
Are you kidding me? And so do you using like magnified goggles.
Adam Zbegner 7:24
I don't need to but you should only use tweezers, you use tiny needlenose pliers, use a cutting tool to cut them out of the sheath and various rods to form you know you have to make cylinders like these.
Joe Van Wie 7:40
Do they come with these tools? Or do you have to you have to have Yeah, I have a kit
Adam Zbegner 7:43
that I'm put together in a little case with this probably 15 different tools now.
Joe Van Wie 7:51
Set the stage you open one, you're three hours into it. What does the mood in the room look like? Is there music going on? Do you do you have any other ritual outside of accomplishing building it? Do you set any other things to set tone to building this?
Adam Zbegner 8:08
I mean music would be a good idea. I guess but I never done that makes sense. No, I'm totally focused on that.
Joe Van Wie 8:15
You just don't have Vivaldi playing in the background like some kind of
Adam Zbegner 8:19
No, I probably look crazed because I'm you know very focused on it. I always
Joe Van Wie 8:26
like in films when they would cut to whoever this rogue field agent is who's retired or off the field or some intellect that they're gonna have a small scene in a movie and he's making models and he's painting pewter soldiers and I know you know this film Ronit wherever they show up to this guy could be leaves, like the makeshift, like street doctor is removing bullets from Robert De Niro. Yeah, he, they interrupt him. He's making Shogun models. I thought that was the best piece of modeling in film work. But to get to what we're, what the plan was. And what we're going to talk about, we're kind of going to just reveal book and I want him to do this because how the depth of your of how well you are read as a friend and philosophy and your ideas on evolution, economics, physics. I've learned a lot and I always enjoy talking to you because it makes me curious to learn more. And you could talk to me in a cadence and speed where I could keep. Yeah, so the book I'm referencing, it's called the case against reality. And it's how evolution hid the truth from our eyes. And it's written by Donald D. Hoffman. And I could just read real quick who Donald D ha Herman is he's an American cognitive psychologist, and Popular Science author. He's a professor in the Department of Cognitive Sciences at the University of California, Irvine, with joint appointments in the Department of Philosophy in the department of logic and philosophy of science. In the School of Computer Science, Hoffman studies consciousness, visual perception, and evolutionary psychology using mathematical models, and psycho social or psychophysical experiments. His research subjects include facial attractiveness, the recognition of shape, the perception of motion and color, the evolution of perception, and the mind body problem. He has co authored two technical books, observer mechanics, Formula theory of perception offers a theory of consciousness and its relationship to physics, automotive, lightning, and human vision that was in 2005, applies vision science to vehicle lighting, his book, visual intelligence, how we create what we see presents, the modern science of visual perception to a broad audience is 2015 TED Talk do we see reality as it is, argues that our perceptions have evolved to hit hide reality from us. And he followed it with this book that we're about to talk about. Now, for a layperson, like me, Donald Hoffman is just, it's overwhelming, and it's fun to listen to, I saw his TED talk, and I saw his book, I bought it right. And I thought it was following, and my, you know, sprinkles of philosophy in comparison to my guests. But what this book, if I give a summary, I'm gonna throw it over to Adam, is challenging the idea that there's a reality beyond our experience. What is the relevance of this? How do you reach that? How does he propose that? Like he could describe it? And that evolution? Is this kind of machinery driving? How complex we became as mammals for one reason for reproduction? And we reproduce? At no point, do we get to perceive truth, truth mean? This universal structure that we're part of a map or something, but it gets confusing, and there's a lot I want to talk about, because this has implications on his understanding of evolution, his understanding of physics and consciousness? And how that how the hell is he putting a whole narrative together with these two theorems that he wants to talk and we'll unpack later multimodal modality, user interface theory and the interface theory of perception. Why do I have this on a recovery podcast? Well, I think most ideas of recovery, and addiction are disconnection. A fraud has been committed, or you don't fit in. And it really leaves a tone and texture that addicts understand that you feel like an alien. Yeah. And you read something like this. And it's like, ah, yeah, that's why the soul force or some of that some, you know, sophomore understanding of reality. So that was my idea of summarizing. How would you summarize this book? And I know it was hard for you to read, because it's, it's pretty and digestible for an intellect to see Deepak Chopra on the cover of a book too, but I think it's for marketing purposes for this guy.
Adam Zbegner 13:35
Joe Van Wie 13:36
And I was really interested, I felt until read it for two weeks, and I hand it over to you. And I'm like, wow, this is it's just something to pondered. But like, how could this even be relevant? Even if it's true? How is this true or not? So how would you summarize what you think this book is about? And how will we begin talking about it?
Adam Zbegner 13:58
Well, first, I'll say that I'm also a layperson. I have no credentials in philosophy or anything else. I've just been self taught since I've been reading philosophy since I was 1817. And it's what is my primary interest in terms of hobbies? I guess you could say. The book cards on the table the book I don't think the book is very good. If I had to summarize his thesis, it's that we don't have access to objective reality objective meaning reality as it is an observed the reality we know which is objects in space, with textures and colors. We touch them, manipulate them. He his claim is that this is a fiction created by what he called was our interface, which is the, he compares it to a desktop on a computer. So the desktop on a computer does not actually look like the memory of the computer, it. It's a interface made for us to make it easy to access various parts of the computer. And you know, you have like a file, right? That's not an actual file, it's an icon, which looks like a file. And that's because we know what files are, and we're familiar with them. And it's easy to click the drop, click something into the file or access it in the file. So that's an interface, just his claim is that our senses and the world as we see it, and perceive it is an interface like that, which makes it easy for us to act and to live. But which does not actually represent in any way. reality as it is. Without us perceiving it
Joe Van Wie 16:14
without humans, mammals having senses smell, taste, touch, feel, to perceive this. So it's hard not to even it's almost like he's describing a simulation.
Adam Zbegner 16:27
Yeah, well, the idea is that the interface is that kind of simulation, I guess, or it's a, it's a map that has been molded. According to him, it's been molded over a very long time by evolution,
Joe Van Wie 16:46
but the map can't be part of like, evolution arises in this map. So let's separate it. This is the confounding part for me. So maybe we should talk a little deeper. So he has this theory, that there's an interface, something's blocking us between objective reality we just have an experience with a through this this lens or interface?
Adam Zbegner 17:09
Yeah. Okay. So there's more to say about the interface versus how we normally think of our senses, is giving us access to the world. And it's, the senses are vertical, which means they show us something about the world. And that something is true, in the sense that if I see a red object, and I say that's a red object, that's true. And our senses are what gave us access to that so that we can say true things about the world. His claim is that, okay, he sets up this dichotomy between truth and fitness. Now, I guess not talking about evolution.
Joe Van Wie 17:55
Yeah, that's, that's his driving. That's the only theory he's using that he built this off of.
Adam Zbegner 18:02
And just this, this is like the main problem of the book, but I'll get to the problem later. Evolution has two components. There is natural selection, and there is mutation. Natural selection, is the process by which fitness, that which is fit, reproduces, and that which isn't, doesn't, or has a harder time. So a quality that is fit in a person is something that helps it or an animal or anything an organism helps it to reproduce, makes it successful in terms of reproduction. Now, this process is a selection process. So the fit, survive and reproduce the unfit perish. The thing is, that would never lead to change. If there wasn't something in us that was capable of creating new traits. That's, that's mutation. So we have these genes. And the genes contain all the information about our Constitution, our body, height, eye color, skin color, freakish, our brain, our disposition, our sex, and so on. And
Joe Van Wie 19:33
I'm not saying memories, but it's a nice poetic way to think of it that to think that 10th of the 150,000 years, Primates memories have produced was sitting in this room. It's freaking freakish to me. Yeah, like
Adam Zbegner 19:46
our brain, for example. There are newer parts of our brain and older parts. The older parts developed a very long time ago and things unlike us, living things. So that's like The more animal part of the brain,
Joe Van Wie 20:01
the reptilian limbic reward center. So they're
Adam Zbegner 20:05
basically the same across all these different organisms, except for the frontal lobe. The frontal lobe is a much departure, a newer part of the brain, which developed in primates. And in us, which is capable of abstract thought
Joe Van Wie 20:23
language concept of more complex risk versus reward idea logic.
Adam Zbegner 20:31
So, evolution is a kind of cumulative process. There's an organism which has a certain constitution, and over time, you get more complex organisms, which can do more things. That's only possible because our genes, sometimes when replicating, so when we reproduce, our genes are replicated in our offspring. But they're kind of mixed up. Because our genes have dormant parts that may become active in our offspring. But there's only so much possible information in our genes. Mutation creates a new quality, mutation is a mistake. In the in the reproduction process, or something goes wrong. Our genes are copied, but something goes wrong in the copy. Yeah. And something new emerges.
Joe Van Wie 21:29
And now two things could emerge, a failure or a success. Usually their
Adam Zbegner 21:33
failures are, usually mutations are not good. They're not good. They didn't, they did not help with fitness.
Joe Van Wie 21:39
So it's not just so people aren't confused in the sense that mutations don't rise up by intention to make something more fit. It's a mistake. So in total, this is
Adam Zbegner 21:49
the really interesting thing is that we, this kind of complexity is only possible because there's mistakes, yeah. In our in when genes are copied, and people
Joe Van Wie 21:59
could make all kinds of arguments without evidence. But the interesting ones could consciousness be a mistake and memories for mammals to have complex memories was a mistake or a virus interacting with brain. So it just opens up a whole pocket of things. But to Donald Hoffman's point he saying, evolution in this sense of these these genes being carried on in this whole scheme of evolution, it's not it doesn't seem to be relevant that that species understands objective reality for survival. Yeah, he that's, that's a strange and he also even goes further he says, species that do or operate understanding as if he's assuming he knows objective reality is if they know or understand truth, it, especially if they're conscious is it's like this commitment to nihilism. They do not survive, like, how is he coming up with?
Adam Zbegner 23:00
He sets up?
Joe Van Wie 23:02
It's crazy, right? Yeah. Well, the thing
Adam Zbegner 23:05
is, he accepts evolution accepts the evidence for it. But he can't, because he's said the world. The world where we've gathered, the evidence isn't real, which means the evidence must be thrown out. He claims there is no there are no objects in space. This is a fiction created by our interface, which means there are no organisms there. There are no genes, there is no world in which natural selection can happen. Yeah. So like his, he starts accepting evolution. Absolutely. But then he goes on to say that the world where evolution happens there.
Joe Van Wie 23:50
Yeah, I get. So he takes a huge leap. He's saying he's making an argument that evolution here, I'm going to tell you why things aren't what they see, especially from the point of view of a species or us being deceived. Here's a moth that can camouflage itself to look like a tree. Another species that survives off that moth eating it now doesn't see it sees it as a tree. That species is not seeing reality for what it is. It's actually a moss hiding. Now it fails to get a payout in this evolution game, and the probability of it not reproducing goes up exponentially can eat and it's failing because of a deception.
Adam Zbegner 24:39
Yeah, well, and evolution has led to lots of organisms which are kind of programmed to deceive. They look like other things.
Joe Van Wie 24:50
So he's making this as a point just as a thought experiment, or kind of, I don't want to say a parlor trick but to say, don't think what you're seeing. I'm going to show you like some optical illusions that arose out from evolution of why I could prove to you you're not experiencing reality, but it's he's in the confines in the interface I don't like he's always
Adam Zbegner 25:12
in the confines of the interface because there's nothing else.
Joe Van Wie 25:16
Why am I gonna see this? What like i
Adam Zbegner 25:18
I can only speculate he either knows that the argument doesn't work and carries on anyway, because it's interesting, it sounds interesting and people sort of liked the idea,
Joe Van Wie 25:31
or did I was reading it and then
Adam Zbegner 25:35
or he, or he just doesn't accept the criticisms I'm sure he's gotten from other people from from other experts, philosophers, whatever. But you cannot use the interface as evidence for anything. In terms of the way the world is really. Because at the interface does not represent truth.
Joe Van Wie 26:00
What would you think this does to someone who would believe this book and his positions? If Well, let's, let's not even get there yet. Because there's a lot of that just we're just talking about one sliver, there's a couple. There's like three roads, he's kind of paving. That was the first one. The second one is that there's the the interfaces icons, like there is something it's almost like Grand Theft Auto just to take a crude example, you're playing Grand Theft Auto, but you don't know you're in the game. And he's telling us we're in the game. We're not really getting to cars, we're getting into code. But we only see a car. But underneath it, it's kind of a matrix feel not to have some kind of matrix underlying all this. And what Donald Hoffman is seeing the code well, how is he making that leap? What like, because he's,
Adam Zbegner 27:01
he makes the LEAP by setting up a dichotomy between truth and fitness. It's not a sound dichotomy, because actually truth and fitness work together. They are not It's not like seeing truth means you don't see fitness or seeing fitness, you don't see truth. They are they work together in the sense that in order to receive fitness payouts, things that will like let's say food, an animal needs food to survive, and in order to find food, it has to have access to the environment. So in order to get those fitness payouts you have to perceive well, not truth but you have to perceive the game. You have to see things as they are. So the author claims fitness is real and that we we do it acquire fitness payouts in the sense that we get these things which help us survive and reproduce. Yeah.
Joe Van Wie 28:08
And he also goes a step further like implicates you you can be in morality could cause you to be more fit. Yeah, he's using the premise of game theory. Game theory kind of looking at life as fitness payouts, natural selection you can take different approaches say just for the sake of human or humans consciousness, a dominance game to get through life, a chair a virtuous game to get through life. And the better you play this role this persona homos you're building up your fitness payouts to reproduce and carry on your gene your your gene game. How does he so he takes that argument says anyone who's good at this is just really learned how to cooperate with an interface. It's very complex, the map the world. There's, there's subject and object still in this interface. It's not inseparable. It's I don't know if there's separation within it. Like
Adam Zbegner 29:14
I don't know if there's objects for him at all. But there is a subject to us, we are the subject. And we have this interface, which, like a desktop, makes it easy for us to access fitness payouts, the fitness payouts are real. There they are beyond the interface. And somehow the interface shows us them in terms of an icon, which is not really there. Yeah. And this is very strange, because what is the fitness payout that really exists behind the interface? He can't Say, I mean, we have no access to it. So why does he, like what fitness in regular evolutionary theory is a quality of organisms which really exist, and some are more fit than others. But he throws out all that as part of the interface. You can't use the interface to talk about the real world, which is what he's doing
Joe Van Wie 30:28
like in we're experiencing the veil, this veil could drop and it's just a bunch of
Adam Zbegner 30:34
so fitness becomes meaningless if it's not in terms of organisms fighting to survive. And he sets up this strange thing where an organism which word have access to truth, would be at a disadvantage to one on access to fitness. But an organism that has access to fitness and sense that they can see the things they need, is also seeing the world as it is, because that thing really does help them survive.
Joe Van Wie 31:06
It's almost as if he's describing it with this, you know, this thing that just behind the argument the whole time that there's a super intelligence, or there's, there's a variable of knowing everything, like objective reality, I'm not even speculating any sane God because he doesn't like how does he make these arguments without the assumption there's something or perception that could know all truth that would cascade into knowing everything? Right, like, so if he's saying to know truth? It's a hard word to use. Is it? Is that all knowing? I, well, like
Adam Zbegner 31:46
he makes claims, which he thinks are true, though he has access to truth. Thinks he does. A lot of his claims aren't true, in my opinion, but somehow he moved beyond fitness payouts to truth. And, you know, what's the fitness payout of this interface? Theory? I can't imagine there is any
Joe Van Wie 32:10
Why isn't agile? My question always what evolution is just a curiosity, what makes the complexity move forward? Like is it just
Adam Zbegner 32:20
because they're very slow? It's very slow process of trial and error. Organisms, single celled organisms, you know, they were the first living things. And they compared to us were very simple. They had genes, or a lot less of them.
Joe Van Wie 32:38
What's the relevance without consciousness? Like, do you ever like, we have this path that it's hard for me, I used to always think just materialistically it's a hard world. And then we just rise out of this, this monster show of like, your sea monsters and barren dead planets, strange explosions and complexities happening out there noise, like, no noises to be heard, or perceptions to have in this complex kind of Symphony of madness, right?
Adam Zbegner 33:10
Yeah, it's been a few billion years of evolution.
Joe Van Wie 33:14
And then something rises up to start bending glass and looking around and what the hell is going on, we leave the fitness payouts of searching, so foraging all day or hunting. And now we can read a book like this, this guy's telling us,
Adam Zbegner 33:29
it just happens by single celled organisms, they're out there doing their thing reproducing, consuming nutrients. A mutation happens, most of them are bad. One happens, that leads to a trait of a totally new trait, which makes that single celled organism more fit than the others. Yeah, they feel they can do something the others can't. Or they can, they can move to new areas, or they can, their spine straightens. I don't know their walk, or whatever it is, that mutation makes them more fit. They reproduce. Because they're fit. Maybe they reproduce, or their offspring produced at a faster rate than the others. Eventually, this Morphett single celled organism overtakes the others. And that becomes, the population becomes this new fit or version. And that just keeps happening until you get more and more complexity. And that over billions of years, leads to the complexity we see today in organisms.
Joe Van Wie 34:39
So do you separate consciousness from complexity or consciousness from the material world? I forget his kind of claim here without thumbing through the book. But you personally you know, this this argument is older than Donald Hoffman. It's, it's cop, and we could talk about that maybe you could summarize. Maybe he's leaning into this argument now and trying to use tools of scientific tools and more.
Adam Zbegner 35:10
It's really, it's in the realm of Kant's. Ideas, it's concrete ideas are much, much better, even though he's
Joe Van Wie 35:22
in this is 200 years prior to Donald Hoffman, Immanuel Kant. And how would you general generally describe how he's touching on what Kant started to discuss 200 years ago?
Adam Zbegner 35:37
I'm gonna try to describe it simply.
Joe Van Wie 35:41
So, Dr. Scott simply,
Adam Zbegner 35:44
so before Kant, there was David Hume, and he, yeah, he sort of showed that cause and effect causality. So things, well, something happens because something else happened. And that caused it right. David Hume sort of showed that we don't perceive cause and effect directly, we see one thing happen, and we see another, and we see this thing happen, and this other thing happened enough. And we associate them and we say, one causes the other. Now, the argument is complex, not just that, okay. But yeah, it was a good argument good enough that it disturbed calm. Because you can't have science without cause and effect. And of cause and effect is not a scientific notion, then science becomes possible. So he was like, I have to save cause and effect, I have to show that it's that
Joe Van Wie 36:45
it's on his shoulders.
Adam Zbegner 36:46
Yeah, it's that cause and effect we are justified in believing in he had to show that he did this by taking cause and effect from the world. And he sort of said, No, cause and effect is a category of our understanding. And data comes to us from the world, which we haven't, you know, we can't say what it's like, he sort of this guy, the author sort of talks about what it's like Kant says, You can't, you can't possibly know anything about it, because by definition, it is unobserved. But Well, enough, stuff comes in from that real world, which, and it, it goes through our categories of understanding, which is, I guess, similar to the interface.
Joe Van Wie 37:41
So this is where Donald Hoffman gets kind of interesting in itself, because it's an interesting idea. I don't know how it proves his theory, the interface, but now he starts to get very descriptive of what you're saying, cause and effect, we don't have access to the purity of the data, because now it's going through we're humans, we have emotional components to us, a life a history. And we, especially with this emotional component of being human, I see something happen, I think I've accessed the truth of what happened caused an effect. But my brain is, this is all happening in my mind, this, this doesn't give me access to what's happening in a world outside of
Adam Zbegner 38:27
the subject, and we're not conscious. There are other categories such as cause and effect that just one, but he concepts, we have these categories of understanding that ways of understanding in us sort of hardwired Yeah. And everything we perceive is sort of automatically filtered through these categories and presented as presented to us in that way. So things are presented in terms of cause and effect to us. And we can't say whether cause and effect has validity beyond that. But unlike this guy, like I said he does not say anything about the world as it is really. But if you accept Kant's idea, science is okay again, because all science deals with is phenomenon things as we receive them. And since cause and effect is a category of understanding everything comes to us in terms of it. It's okay to say cause and effect happens because everything that happens happens in terms of the world that we have access to. And Kant sets up a distinction between phenomena and numina. numina are things as they are really unperceived unfiltered through the categories
Joe Van Wie 39:45
radio waves, like let's let's give an example of something you could apply it to,
Adam Zbegner 39:50
does not describe it whatsoever. It's a negative concept. It's just a lack of being perceived a lack of being
Joe Van Wie 39:58
in for the thought X precise we go to 200 years back, it's could not perceive a black hole emitting radiation, or he couldn't see a picture of the Milky Way with a radio telescope, that just grand idea. So to him that would that in those terms in that timeframe, that's not accessible to him? Would that be a consideration of that idea? No, no,
Adam Zbegner 40:25
that's not the same. Because there are, yeah, there's lots of things in the world, we would tools
Joe Van Wie 40:31
or technologies, technology gives us access to the things he's
Adam Zbegner 40:35
nothing that nothing could possibly give us access to it, because by perceiving it,
Joe Van Wie 40:41
it's happening in the mind. We we it's through the categories of the mind, though nothing could be perceived outside of the viewers we
Adam Zbegner 40:50
cannot perceive without perceiving. And you can't according to him, you cannot proceed without the categories.
Joe Van Wie 40:56
So let's talk about the categories in the sense is, would I be making a crude leap to your buddy's echeck. He calls, say, biases, lenses, like with with just even when we're understanding our own history, culture, or what you're seeing around you, events scenarios, they're being filtered through all these kinds of edits that omit things that another perceiver, from the same point of view would have a totally different experience, or narrative of what just happened in front of their face. Is this similar to what Kant was describing his categories?
Adam Zbegner 41:36
I mean, you could draw parallels a biases are like, these filters that we have, which show us the world in particular way, if we have a bias against, I don't know, rap music. We, we already have that bias. So when we hear rap music, we're sort of not open to it, because we're biased against it. So we just immediately sort of say, I don't like that. I don't want to listen to it, or whatever. Someone without that bias was, will listen to it, and then decide, well, if they liked it or not,
Joe Van Wie 42:14
or what about just seeing the object of a film, scene up to the moment that killed in a horror movie, a killer is about to stab someone you see the knife go up, but I've never stabbed the person with, let's say, Hitchcock's Psycho. And now your mind starts to put cuts in there. And this happens to a whole roomful of people, a population sees the same thing, but it never happened. Yeah, well in the film,
Adam Zbegner 42:43
the thing about biases, why they're different from the categories is that biases are kind of like, high level, high level cognitive stuff, which has to do with preferences, likes, dislikes, pleasant, unpleasant traumas, pleasurable unpleasurable. You know, we've got bias against certain people, we, there's fear, anyway, but all those kinds of things. Take you know that they're, the categories are much more fundamental. What are the categories First of all, are the same for everybody. So biases are different for everybody, everybody, everybody perceives in terms of cause and effect. Everything that comes to us in the world is in terms of cause and effect, just like it's in terms of color, texture, space.
Joe Van Wie 43:42
There's one that evades all of its time, is it causing effect to experience of time? Time is
Adam Zbegner 43:48
very interesting. kicking
Joe Van Wie 43:51
the ball around too much.
Adam Zbegner 43:54
Time? Like if
Joe Van Wie 43:56
say, we didn't have time, like we had x it? Would it all happened at once? Would there be a void? Is this messy soup? Is it time making cause and effect perceivable time or relationship to it?
Adam Zbegner 44:08
Yeah, you need time to have cause and effect. You know, because cause and effect happens in time. One thing happens then a little bit. Another thing happens. Yeah. And then other. So yes, time. Obviously, we perceive things in terms of time duration
Joe Van Wie 44:25
is how do you pull the relation you can't pull the relationship apart of any of these ideas from time right?
Adam Zbegner 44:31
Now, not really a time is very fundamental. You know, philosophers debate about what like Heidegger would debate about whether time or space is more fundamental. But yeah. Anyway, the categories are like that. Everybody has them do the same for everybody. And everything we perceive is in terms of these categories. So you could take any perception like this room and talk about what the categories which categories are shaping which parts of it? Cause and Effect is one, you just flip the switch light comes on. That's cause and effect.
Joe Van Wie 45:12
And what do you explain categories? Again? Is there? How would you define how was he defining categories? Is this how we bucket information?
Adam Zbegner 45:22
Understanding is understanding is, you know, understanding the world making your way about in the world. The categories of understanding are what make possible that, that ability to navigate the world,
Joe Van Wie 45:40
he doesn't give a set amount of categories. He does,
Adam Zbegner 45:43
I did not. Yeah, that's, I didn't brush up on Conte. So I can't tell you what
Joe Van Wie 45:47
they are. Yeah. But do they just if you could just shoot from the hip to his categories, his his discourse on this is how we perceive and understand things cause and effect. And here's the categories. Fast forward 200 years, get to Donald Hoffman. And a larger understanding of at least a neurological story of what's going on our perceiving how much time lapses from an object perceivably in the world comes into my eye flips over gets processed sounds this all timed, where it's just not raw data, it's happening at once. He's even making a claim this is deceptive. Just we shouldn't be something else. What is fuck is he talking about? So we take all that data in neurologically was was caught hitting the bull's eye a little bit of how the brain processes, optics, hearing time space, I'm seeing a pattern pattern between cause and effect. I'm making this room measured all the risks and threats, and I'm putting patterns together to make me feel alright, and to understand what's happening in this room. Is he
Adam Zbegner 47:06
like Kant, obviously was not a scientist and science was not where it is today back then. Is he is correct in a broad way. The specifics. A lot of them, I guess you can say are debatable, or though we don't need them anymore. He was working with knowledge as it existed at the time, but he got a lot, right. Broadly speaking. And unlike this guy, okay, so there's obvious parallels between cones categories and his interface, right? Both are these structures which filter what the what's coming in from the world and organize it in a way that we understand. But this guy, he's doing it for different reasons is this son of a bitch. And his argumentation is very bad compared to Kant's. He's saying, what his evidence for the what he uses to justify the interface theory is evolution. And, like I said, evolution is a theory, which we have come up with, for gathering evidence. And that Evidence is Evidence, which comes from objects in space. And time, according to this guy. That's, that's the interface, which does not give us any truth about the world. I'll
Joe Van Wie 48:53
quote it to this some page 191 In reference to what you're saying. He's saying the interface theory of perception contends that there is a screen an interface between us and objective reality. So I'm going to switch gears for a second that's kind of the evolution build up of his argument, and we are unpacking it and explore what the hell's What's he talking about? He makes it even more enormous claim outside of evolution. Now he he's in physics, that space and time are not fundamental. We're missing what's fundamental. That was really tempting. I you know, I'm not as deep dive into Conte as you were. But me and it was fun. What does he mean? Space and time we're missing some other key block and he seemed physics is dead and tons of physicists are green with him that space time is dead. It's we maxed out because we're missing something more fundamental to go for forward. And then he presents a certain kind of geometry, this this high concept, complex geometry that cannot be part of our dimension, or our plane of experience. And he's saying here, this is something I could point to a why if this exists, we can have access, theoretically, through the math, math just telling us something's true or false. He's saying there's math out there telling us another plane or universe exists. And he's pinning a lot to this, if I'm correct, the way I read it, that these geometrical shapes if they exist, that means it's outside of our plain spacetime stead. There's something else happening here we're being like, it's almost Descartes, we're being deceived. I don't know how what this little objects telling me it's true. What does that mean? How do we have access to math, that's not
Adam Zbegner 50:57
the thing about Okay, so we have to ignore the interface stuff and all that because it's, I think it's not good. But I like physics, and quantum physics and not things I'm very,
Joe Van Wie 51:10
and we're not physicists, we're just two guys chat over to friends chat about a book, this is just from our
Adam Zbegner 51:15
quantum physics gets very weird. The world of quantum physics is not like the world, the local world we inhabit. So in quantum physics has sort of destroyed notions of matter.
Joe Van Wie 51:31
It's real weird, it just vibrations.
Adam Zbegner 51:34
In Common Sense matters, like, sees solid stuff, which resists us which we can, which pushes against us, and we push against it. And, you know, when you get down to the basic components of matter, wiggle, they're not like that. Not solid, it's empty space, mostly you like Alan Watts. Right, I haven't read them in a long time,
Joe Van Wie 52:00
you just see does a nice little poetics. Like, it's not a world of straight lines, it's wiggles are all in the wiggles,
Adam Zbegner 52:06
somehow, somehow, this mostly empty space. When combined together in certain ways, creates solid objects.
Joe Van Wie 52:19
And even weirder, we will say, consciousness is now like a tuning fork. If you have enough complexity, gold neurons, and they all piece together. Somebody just shows up, that's the aware of its
Adam Zbegner 52:33
consciousness thinking for consciousness to emerge, it would have to have been conducive to fitness. So we only can speculate about how, what like, first of all, the collection of mutations that had to happen for consciousness to emerge, and then speculate about what consciousness so caught, alright, so this is my theory, I have my own theory of I'm
Joe Van Wie 53:00
willing to hear because I have an inarticulate theory of
Adam Zbegner 53:05
AI. And it's not really like a scientific theory. It's just more like speculation about what consciousness does for us.
Joe Van Wie 53:14
When you're talking about in the realm of cause and effect is binary, are we? Is it not like are we still like, complexity caused consciousness and generality speaking
Adam Zbegner 53:25
of natural selection, and mutation eventually caused consciousness to emerge and beings like us. It has to be good for us to emerge and thrive. We're all conscious. So it thrived with you know, I want there's a point where living things we're not conscious will Alright,
Joe Van Wie 53:46
let's stop real quick. What there's different. The definitions have gotten kind of on a spectrum. For the eye, the word an idea of consciousness is different. What are you saying when you say consciousness? Like we're all conscious, because it means some people don't believe all people are conscious.
Adam Zbegner 54:05
But the definition of consciousness is very, very tricky, because it's consciousness is not a thing we see in the world. No, it is the very condition that allows us to see and to know we are seeing and it's awareness of experience. So awareness. You know, I don't remember the philosopher first come up with this but there's phenomenal consciousness and then there's like reflective consciousness. So phenomenal is just seeing, you see colors and whatever. And then a reflective consciousness is knowing you're seeing and thinking about it. Okay, well,
Joe Van Wie 54:44
let's focus on awareness because we know squirrels, see collars, and things like that, but as a squirrel considering what kind of squirrel it is, like this inner life of just torment where maybe You know, if you had addiction and trauma 50% of your life can be lived in your head to something that wasn't experienced by other people is fucking weird. There's a weird and it's a hard way to live, it gets really exhausting. This is a weird consciousness. This is what freaks me out. And when I read his book, and you're about to tell me, your idea what your finish this is like, what is that consciousness because it seems to be detaching, like with ideas of addiction or harm, cognitive, you detach from the physical world, you're having a life? What's the difference? What's going on?
Adam Zbegner 55:39
All right, so pre conscious life like insects, let's say they collectively, my example would be these butterflies, I don't remember what kind they are Sukhmani they live in this environment with all these trees and like so they can't really see each other in this forest. To reproduce, you know, that see each other to reproduce. So, over a very long time, a behavior, a collective behavior emerged among these butterflies, there's like a week or I don't know a certain period of time every year, where they all follow streams, they fall against the current uphill, and they reach a clearing where they can see and they make. Now, there was no reasoning or consciousness or problem solving going on. And those butterflies they didn't think about how do we fix this problem, they some butterfly had a mutation that caused it to do that. And, eventually, and that one reproduced, and its offspring to that too. And eventually, all the butterflies had this big collective behavior in sync. But it was only it was a very slow process of natural selection. But it was a, there was a problem and it got solved. But it got solved without consciousness, it got solved through living things interacting with each other, over a long, long period of time and mutation.
Joe Van Wie 57:15
But scale that is there a consciousness that is who's setting the parameters of how the physical world interacts what he would call an interface, which I think is the only interesting thing we reached before. We're knee deep in it. And this is what we've been adapted to understand who gives a shit if there's after that, like, how is it reachable? Or is this just amongst game talking about if there's
Adam Zbegner 57:42
nothing to say about things beyond? What we can possibly perceive?
Joe Van Wie 57:48
Can we perceive something? Would this be logic? Or is it just the mind wanting a point A to point B, like the human experience story has a beginning story has an end? This is how I think in these categories. What is what is the drive from simplicity? Is it because we created this narrative BIGBANG expansion, however, it's evolving, the idea of an origin of the material world expands. And then on this little rock, in one of these, you know billions of galaxies, complexity stars rising up on Earth. But it's all driving from even on our planet simplicity to complexity, single cell to multi cells to different cells, and all these different little chemicals, kind of just neatly stacking on each other. What is the game? And because how does what is this a scale of consciousness? We can't reach this beyond us feeling like individuals? Is the universe expressing? Is the symphony entire symphony, a scale of consciousness at consciousness? Mammals are having some little sliver of it come into the complexity of their brain that's making them suffer have the illusion that they have a self? Like, are we separate? Can you separate all of us or not? Same? We're all one. But if the experience of life is this conscious me and you sit in a room, if this came to be, Are we under the illusion that we're having an individual experience? Is this one kind of thing happening to all
Adam Zbegner 59:34
like, well, I don't there. There are different kinds of theories about consciousness being fundamental. Everything is conscious or consciousness is. You know, the very basic fundamental thing and there is without consciousness, there's nothing else. Yeah, it's pan. psychism is psychism. Yeah. Uh, you know, everything is conscious. At some level. You know, there's different kinds of consciousness. I don't care about those theories.
Joe Van Wie 1:00:13
How did you? Were you tempted to? Like, how did you come?
Adam Zbegner 1:00:17
Come to there's one good? You know, it makes sense. Because everything we talk about and everything is because we're conscious of it like, yeah, we can't talk about things we're not conscious of, we cannot perceive things we're not, we can at least be possibly be conscious. So in a way, consciousness is the very, what is what there is, most fundamentally, there are objects. But first, there were conscious of objects. And so there's what's called the order of knowing and the order of being there, there's the order in which things come to be and there's the order in which we come to know them. But we come to know them first before we know we receive them before we can say anything. It gets weird. So, so idealism is the old version of this that basically says all his mind, at all is you know, objects exist within the mind. Yeah. And everything else too.
Joe Van Wie 1:01:26
Sounds like a fractal that like, or I don't like a fractal experience. Like, how do you separate subject and object? I don't know. I don't know the answer. You know, I was telling you off, Mike, I have a daily meditation practice, practice. Let's get weirder. Because I don't, I don't know what is an object and subject now at this point in my mirror, which which side is the mirror what is being reflected object or subject, or the resistant illusion I have to experience to get through life.
Adam Zbegner 1:01:59
The reason we could say subject or consciousness is primary, is because LRS didn't know anything else we have to be that first we have to be conscious, we have to have a mind which perceives and thinks. So, object is objects are secondary, the subject, there was a subject and then objects appear in the subject. And that's undoubtedly true. We, we don't know without first being conscious. So and then in the order of knowing consciousness comes first. Science says in the order of being the order in which things come to be consciousness is a late product.
Joe Van Wie 1:02:42
Yeah, that's, that's creepy to me. Doesn't that creep you out?
Adam Zbegner 1:02:46
No. Well, it's a problem because
Joe Van Wie 1:02:50
it's a cat problem. What what is the relevance of existence that there's objects, there's no consciousness to perceive them? No stories to be told. That is
Adam Zbegner 1:02:59
strange to think about? Because time is variable, we experienced time at a certain speed with little animals,
Joe Van Wie 1:03:08
different speeds. How about trees? I want out
Adam Zbegner 1:03:11
time. Time there was time before beings which lived in time and perceived and time. That time is it how can you imagine the speed of that when? When the speed doesn't exist? It's like weird. It's just are those succession happening? But there's no now. Now depends on beings which are living and there there. There's now and there's, there's later and there's the past. And so you need that center now. For there to be past, past and future. It without subjects.
Joe Van Wie 1:03:52
There's no now there's no future either.
Adam Zbegner 1:03:56
Right? There's no past or future there's succession.
Joe Van Wie 1:04:00
This succession, this non separation of succession. That can't
Adam Zbegner 1:04:05
wait. It's impossible to really to think.
Joe Van Wie 1:04:09
No, we're gonna figure it out about it's
Adam Zbegner 1:04:13
about that stuff. Because we insert ourselves Yeah, thinking about it. We insert ourselves into this past Yeah, without subjects,
Joe Van Wie 1:04:25
but we are the like, we found the past. The story's been told I
Adam Zbegner 1:04:29
found it. Through long process dinosaurs exists
Joe Van Wie 1:04:33
the past that those dinosaurs arrived into our consciousness, a Zeitgeist our culture. It's just really hard. The one point I wanted to talk to and see what your ideas are, which was, you said, you know, subject precedes object, right. And then how to subject exist without object What if subject arises and void like this is it's just weird. It's so you see, I always see this problem. I agree. How do you separate? They don't separate? Subject object?
Adam Zbegner 1:05:11
Yes, object is also an object. We are objects
Joe Van Wie 1:05:16
without a reflection or an observer. What does anything exist? Like? It's, it's too weird. I thought it was a simple answer where maybe I'm confusing myself or making a problem with it while I
Adam Zbegner 1:05:29
think. Alright, so like different creatures have different ways of perceiving some smell things others? Can't
Joe Van Wie 1:05:36
I squint my eyes and try to do a little game do that once in a while. Some see
Adam Zbegner 1:05:40
colors, others can't sound hear things? No. And some perceive very like that, you know, they have sown about
Joe Van Wie 1:05:48
trees. Yeah, I heard Johan that Johann Bach. He was talking about timescale allows for all types of consciousness, we can't.
Adam Zbegner 1:05:58
So articulate Yeah, you could think of reality as like, is much more expansive, than what our window can give us in terms of our capacity to perceive, we can only perceive so much we can't perceive very tiny, we can't receive atoms directly, no, the bugs on our face, we cannot experience intense heat release, burn us up, we cannot experience tense, cold will die. I mean, there's all these things which are outside of the scope of our ability to perceive them directly. So the world as it is, is more expansive than what we can perceive about it. And that world, you cannot say what it's like, because to say what it's like is already to put it in terms of our limited perception. You know, you say that's red. But what is red? Like in common sense, red is this color, which has a particular look, and vibration, in contrast to other colors or color. You need a lot of colors to have colors. If everything was one color, there'd be no. So we'd have no concept of color. Yeah. But there are other things about that, that we don't see. Or don't perceive, because we lacked the capacity. And what is it about the thing that causes us to see that redness? It's not redness? No. It's something about the Constitution of the thing, which appears as read to us. And fundamental to that it's like, but the thing causing the thing and the thing causing us to see the redness is not redness. It's I don't know what it is, I'm sure, whoever is an expert in colors, and could probably tell you the diff like different things with different colors. There's something different about their makeup that makes them different colors. That isn't a color.
Joe Van Wie 1:08:06
Yeah, it's like it's Kelvin unit, right? It's the temperature of how something reflects light is that our colors arrived to us, but what about the object makes that
Adam Zbegner 1:08:18
makes the light interact with it? So that color is bizarre? But um, so I just sort of accept that there the world, there is a world beyond our perception that just like science does,
Joe Van Wie 1:08:31
and would you believe this world will exist? As is continue the story without you, you're in the world and you'll leave it?
Adam Zbegner 1:08:41
Yeah, I'll leave and we'll carry on.
Jon Edwards 1:08:46
Hey, all this is Jonathan Edwards, the editor of this podcast. I do exist as far as you know. And so does the second episode of this podcast, which will be released very shortly. So stay tuned for part two.
Joe Van Wie 1:09:07
I'd like to thank you for listening to another episode of all better. You can find us on all better.fm or listen to us on Apple podcasts. Spotify, Google podcasts, Stitcher, I Heart Radio, and Alexa. Special thanks to our producer John Edwards, an engineering company 570. Drone. Please like or subscribe to us on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. And if you're not on social media, you're awesome. Looking forward to seeing you again. And remember, just because you're sober doesn't mean you're right.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai